Tips for Holiday Spending
If your list can’t be funded within your current budget, backtrack and reconsider.
By Jennifer L. Adams
Planning your approach to gift giving during the holidays, before the season really gets started, is the best way to avoid the stress and guilt that accompany overspending.
Even if you find yourself swept up in holiday preparation without a plan, taking just a bit of time to think things through can go a long way toward curbing spending and avoiding spender’s remorse in the New Year. Here are our favorite ideas.
First, have a plan. Make a list of the people you plan to give a gift to this year. How much do you plan to spend on these gifts? Add up the amounts and determine whether that amount of money works in your spending plan.
Try really hard to not go into debt. If the amounts in your list can’t be funded within your current budget, backtrack and reconsider. It might also be the time to discuss with family and friends that you need to have a leaner year.
Younger children won’t be able to suppress their desire for gifts, but adults and older kids understand that gifts shouldn’t put the giver in a precarious situation.
Give the gift of time and service. In our family, we sometimes exchange gifts this way, and I think it is very useful. I will take two hours of childcare over a new purse any day of the week. When our family was clearing land for a house, we exchanged firewood as a gift.
When I was very pregnant with my daughter, our family came to our house and organized our new kitchen to just help out. House cleaning, home repair, and car washing are other ideas. Tailor the service to the person–what could she really use?
Participate in a family gift exchange. This can work really well. Some families buy gifts for each member of their extended family. If this is in your spending plan, perfectly fine. For most people, it doesn’t work financially. A friend of ours with a large extended family exchanges names of the grandchildren only.
So, each grandchild draws a name of another grandchild and purchases one gift, subject to a dollar limit. There’s a lot of joy in seeing young kids play with their new toys!
I’m frugal and my friends know it. One year, we had a great experience for our daughter. A friend has a daughter who is several years older than ours. In November, the friend sent ten books and games that were hand-me-downs.
I wrapped them right up, and they were under the tree on Christmas morning. My daughter was so excited about all these new-to-her books and games, and I didn’t spend a penny on them.
Fortunately, we do not have cable TV at our house, so our daughter sees very few commercials. However, if your child sees every commercial for the hottest new item for the holiday season, it’s time to set some expectations. After you have reviewed your budget, have a conversation with your children about realistic gift purchases.
I have my daughter write down each item she would like to have, and then I have her rank them. I talk to her about the idea that she’ll get one of her larger gift items and a few small ones, but she does not get everything on the list. We also share this list with family so there are fewer gifts that end up sitting in the toy bin all year.
Every year, I pay for parking at the Grove Park Inn so my daughter and I can see the gingerbread houses. The Grove Park Inn also decorates tons of trees with all different themes. We spend two hours strolling around, looking at houses, trees and enjoying the fireplaces, all covered by the $20 parking fee.
Along the same lines, we enjoy driving through neighborhoods where we know people go all out with decorating for the holidays. And we spend several nights in December enjoying hot cocoa and cookies while watching a holiday movie for fun.
Give your time to the community. Visit a local retirement home and spend time talking with the residents. Families often live out of town and are unable to visit regularly. Some residents may have recently lost a loved one and find themselves feeling especially lonely with the upcoming holiday. Volunteering at soup kitchens can be a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit.
At our office, we start the holiday season off by “adopting” kids for Christmas. We spend one morning shopping for gifts on the kids’ wishlist and come back to the office to wrap gifts while listening to carols. It really is one of the best days we have in the office each year.
Review your list. Where did you go over budget? Where could you have cut some expenses? Keep this information for the following year when it’s time to start planning again (in October :).
Happy Holidays from Starks Financial Group!
Jennifer L. Adams is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and financial advisor at Starks Financial Group (440 Montford Ave. Asheville, NC 28801 // 828-285-8777). Starks Financial Group is not a registered broker/deal, and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. This article expresses the opinions of Jennifer L. Adams and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™ and CFP® in the U.S.